Proposal for a Panel for the EC/ASECS at Pennsylvania State University, Nov 3-6, 2011

Still from Joe Wright's 2007 Atonement: Cecilia Tallis (Keira Knightley) posting a letter to Robbie Turner: Ian McEwan's book a hostile rewrite of Richardson's Clarissa

CFP: Liberty in historical, post-colonial and rewritten novels set in the long 18th century

In the last couple of decades a proliferation of historical fictions in a remarkable variety of permutations have been written, read, sold widely, gained prestigious prizes, and attracted an equally varied remarkable body of criticism. Verisimilar Eurocentric stories in the Scott and political-regional-national and Marxist traditions; historical romances combining idealism with realism and addressing issues and concerns especially of interest to women, subjective heroine's texts, gothic inflected; post-colonial, multi-cultural, queering and post-modern histories where it is said "the empire writes back" and challenges the perspectives, norms, and accepted stories as myths; rewritten novels where 20th century authors retell and re-present the events and characters of canonical texts (Coetzee's Foe, Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea, Martin's Mary Reilly, Randall's TThe Wind Done Gone), revise what counts altogether in fictionalized places and histories (Swift's Waterlands, Colegate's The Summer of the Royal Visit, Figes's The Seven Ages of Women), and "What if?" (counterfactual) and fantasy time-travelling histories (Gabaldon's Outlander series) -- have attracted film-makers of all dispositions to make transposition, commentary, free and self-reflexive composite movies which become the objects of further adaptation and re-vision.

This panel seeks to explore why and how these fictions intervene in our lives. In her The Historical Romance, Helen Hughes argues this array of costume-disguises, however ironically presented, are mirrors for engaging, criticizing, undermining the political, social, sexual, economic arrangements of the societies they imaginatively recreate, whose goal is to liberate readers and viewers, to free our minds to consider the arrangements we now endure and alternatives. Adventures and nostalgia allow for dramatizations of contemporary fears and hopes, with books combining the archetypal and mythic, particular, historical, and philosophical. I invite papers which also pair 18th century novels with modern analogous equivalents or commentaries on them, say Richardson's Clarissa and Ian McEwan's Atonement, Defoe's Moll Flanders and Donoghue's Slammerkin and 18th century texts which may be said to rewrite one another, Richardson's Pamela and Fielding's Joseph Andrews, Radcliffe's Udolpho and Austen's Northanger Abbey, or may be connected in dialogic ways (Richardon's Clarissa and Diderot's La Religieuse, Radcliffe's Romance of the Forest and Stael's Corinne). Free translations could also be of interest here (French to English, English to French).

Ellen Moody
George Mason University

Still from Stephen Frears' 1996 Mary Reilly: Mary (Julia Roberts) encounters Hyde (John Malkovich) in the streets: Valerie Martin's book a sympathetic rewrite of Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

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Page Last Updated 9 September 2011